It is often said that Papua New Guinean society and culture is patriarchal. Yet, despite the realities of female subordination, PNG is full of women who are strong, resilient and capable. In many cases, Papua New Guinean women are taking key roles as leaders, whether among their families and communities or at a provincial or national level. Often they perform these roles quietly and without recognition. These films provide an opportunity to celebrate the passion and commitment of six women leaders.
Nobody becomes an admired leader without support. The saying “behind every man is a great woman” could be adapted to “behind every great woman are many great men and women”. This is perhaps particularly so in PNG where social relationships determine an individual’s success or otherwise.
When Papua New Guinea (PNG) became independent from Australia in 1975, one of the aims of the PNG Constitution was that there would be ‘a rapid increase in the equal and active participation of women in all forms of economic and social activity’. However, as is pointed out repeatedly in reports and articles about PNG, there is little evidence of gender equity in any of the areas of health, education, employment or politics.
Several large-scale reports examining gender in PNG have been produced. An alternative and arguably more influential way to explore questions about gender and development is to produce and examine the life narratives of women caught in the maelstrom of these changes. As Kerry Zubrinich and Nicole Haley comment:
Women seeking to enter the public sector would benefit from the experience and insights of women who have already achieved success in this arena … We recommend recording and publishing the life histories of successful women for the benefit of high school and tertiary students (2009, p. 3).
Substantiating this recommendation, this project will result in filmic biographies. Due to low literacy levels and limited access to books, traditional, written biographies are unlikely to reach the majority of PNG’s population. In contrast, films have the potential to reach a wide audience. Making the films will also help to address the paucity of biographical material about Papua New Guinean women.